When the going gets tough, you may find yourself turning to food to feel better. We’ve all found ourselves engaging in emotional eating – using food to soothe ourselves. Eating can be a way to manage stress or dampen uncomfortable feelings (like loneliness, anxiety, anger, or sadness). Food can even be a way to turn up the volume on pleasant emotions like happiness or comfort.
In the short term, it works pretty well. Your mind latches on to the idea that a certain food will make you feel better, you eat the food, and you feel soothed or relieved. Your brain learns that you can get a quick fix. But, as you’ve probably noticed, the relief doesn’t last. You still feel stressed out about work, and now you have a second problem: you feel bad about yourself for eating all that ice cream.
People sometimes talk about food as a way to satisfy emotional hunger, as if a gnawing feeling of sadness is a void that we can fill with cookies or chips or chicken or any food. And in a sense, that is true. But emotional eating isn’t just about filling some metaphorical emptiness inside. It’s driven by a survival instinct deep in the human brain.
3 Tips for dealing with Emotional Eating?
Understanding the connection between emotions and overeating opens up a whole world of new possibilities. You can learn to deal with feelings in a way that doesn’t involve food. Here are 3 steps you can take to overcome emotional eating:
- Identify your emotions. The first step is to put a name to what you’re feeling. After that terrible day at work, you might be feeling angry. More specifically, you’re feeling resentment (because your coworker should have gotten the assignment, not you) and frustration (because you don’t have the data you’ll need to finish the report). Your body will give you clues to your emotions.
- Accept your feelings and be willing to express them. Don’t fight your emotions. Just let them be. Tell yourself, “It’s okay to feel angry. Anyone would, under these circumstances.” It can also be helpful to talk over your feelings with a supportive friend.
- Choose how you’ll soothe yourself. The part of your brain that associates food with survival is rather primitive. Luckily, there are other parts of the brain – notably the prefrontal cortex – that are capable of taking a broader, more rational perspective. With practice, you can notice that you’re about to overeat for emotional reasons. Then you can use your “higher brain” to decide that you’ll soothe your emotions by calling a friend, going for a walk, or taking a hot bath instead.
Tips can be helpful to get you started in thinking about your eating behaviors in a different way. However, for many people, emotional eating has become something they’ve done for so long that it’s difficult to overcome without support.
It’s also true that emotional eating may be the result of childhood trauma, abuse or neglect and you may not even be aware of how what happened to you has led to your current food and body image issues.
I wanted to say I am so very glad I decided to join The Anchor Program. I’m doing so much better already and you, your team and the participants definitely promote positivity and success. It definitely is a ‘one day at a time’ situation, but I already have chewed up and digested circumstances of my past which have lead to my binge eating disorder. It really helps to recognize, recall and acknowledge what happened in the past which becomes part of our fabric. I am very grateful for the opportunity to be in The Anchor Program and thankful for your expertise and guidance.
— Connecticut Participant
The Anchor Program did for me, in ten weeks, what commercial and alternative diets haven’t been able to in the 30 years I have been trying to resolve my issues with binge eating, compulsive overeating, and body image.
— New York Participant
The anchor program has changed my life in a huge way. I have had a mindset change when it comes to food, instead of having it on my mind all the time I am feeling more and more like I have control of my eating. I am feeling satisfied at meals and have had more energy to put into the more important things in life. I’d highly recommend it to anyone struggling with eating issues!
— New York Participant
The Anchor Program is the answer I have been seeking for my challenges with eating and weight management. I have tried nearly every diet and spent thousands of dollars over more than 2 decades without any sustainable results, growing more and more discouraged at my inability to manage my weight. If you are looking for a quick fix (that will not last), this isn’t the program for you. However, if you are willing to dive deep and experience true freedom and healing, this program may be the answer to all you have been seeking. It absolutely has been for me – I wish I had found it sooner! I could have saved many, many years of suffering and wasted time, money, and energy on efforts that fought against my body’s wisdom, had I found The Anchor Program earlier.
— Missouri Participant
If you are ready to try something new that isn’t just another “diet” in disguise, The Anchor Program may help you lay the foundation to break the agonizing cycle of yo-yo dieting by harnessing your own body’s wisdom to take care of itself. Personally, I found that in order to fully commit to this process I had to surrender idealistic expectations of what I want to look like in favor of what I want to feel like. Once that happened, things really started to fall into place!
— New Jersey Participant